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What’s For Dinner: Home Style Macaroni and Cheese

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What’s For Dinner: Home Style Macaroni and Cheese

Posted on 02 March 2012 by noelskitchen

Tonight’s Family Meal Plan idea is Home Style Macaroni and Cheese served with Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage. The ultimate kids’ favorite and a life-saving dinner dish for parents. Our children prefer this home style version macaroni and cheese to the store bought box version. It’s creamy, cheesy and a fast and easy casserole dish! Here are some ways to create Macaroni and Cheese at home:

  • Add 1 cup of chopped fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • Add 1 cup of Make-Ahead Ground Beef seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the macaroni and cheese into a serving bowl and top with strips of grilled sausage.

Need a little meal planning inspiration? Check out my Recipe Index which is updated daily with new recipes that include a grocery shopping list!


Are you wondering what to make for dinner tonight for your family? You’ll love my easy, make-ahead and money-saving recipes on what to cook your family for dinner! You are encouraged to not only list your dinner plans below, but to request ideas, make suggestions and of course add your favorite recipes!

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Spaghetti Florentine

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Spaghetti Florentine

Posted on 26 February 2012 by noelskitchen

Here is an extra-thrifty, nutritious one-dish meal.


This meal is not only extra-thrift but can be halved. If you have the time to bake it, it tastes even better and freezes well.

Serves: 6


  • 1 pound (16-ounces) spaghetti
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups make-ahead ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sweet basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic. Add the make-ahead ground beef, stirring until all ingredients are combined. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and spinach. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the spaghetti thoroughly in a colander, and toss with the sauce in the skillet. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve hot with a green salad or loaf of french bread.

*The make-ahead ground beef makes preparing this meal quick. However if you need to cook the ground beef, do so at step #2, push ground beef aside once browned then add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until onion is soft.

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Spicy Peanut Noodles

Posted on 23 June 2011 by noelskitchen

Do you ever have trouble estimating the amout of spaghetti noodles to cook? If you find that you’ve cooked too much,do not throw away the leftovers. I have found this recipe to be a tasty dish for leftovers and it is ready in 30 minutes.

Spicy Peanut Noodles



1 pound (16-oz) spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 Tablespoon Rice vivegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove pressed
3/4 cup hot chicken broth
2 Tablespoon chili sauce
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)


  1. In a stock pot, bring enough water to boil over high heat. Add spaghetti noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain. Return noodles to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, sesame oil, cayenne, garlic and chicken broth in a blender. Blend until well smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. To the sauce, slowly add the chili sauce, blending until your desired taste, adding a Tablespoon at a time. (I mention this step after the sauce is already blended because some people prefer less spicy. Remember to taste as you go, you may find you don’t want it that spicy.) With this amount of chili sauce, I find it doesn’t overpower the taste of the sauce or noodles.
  4. Pour sauce over noodles in pot. Stir until well coated and sauce is evenly distributed.
  5. Place noodles in a serving bowl. Top with carrot and sesame seeds. I mixed the carrot in with the noodles shown in picture.

Shopping List:

Sesame seeds

Pantry Items On Hand:

Brown Sugar
Cayenne Pepper
Spaghetti noodles
Creamy Peanut Butter
Soy Sauce
Chicken Broth
Sesame oil

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Spaghetti With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Posted on 19 April 2011 by noelskitchen

You can make an amazing versatile pasta sauce by kicking up a simple jar of pasta sauce. It really doesn’t take much, just some roasted garlic, a little chopped onion, half-and-half, cayenne pepper and some roasted peppers.  I like to use one sweet pepper and one red pepper in this particular recipe. This recipe make a little more than 2 cups of pasta sauce and depending on how much sauce you like on your pasta,  this will be just the right amount for 16 ounces of spaghetti noodles. If you have any leftover sauce, you can refrigerate it and boil more pasta the next day for lunch or freeze in a freezable container and use the next time you serve pasta.

Spaghetti With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce



Salt (optional), for cooking pasta
16 ounces spaghetti noodles
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, roasted
1 cup marinara sauce
1 sweet pepper, roasted
1 red pepper, roasted
1/2 cup half and half
Basil Leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Roast peppers in the oven. (see directions on roasting peppers below.)
  • Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  • Add olive oil, onion, garlic, marinara sauce, roasted peppers and half and half to blender. Blend until all ingredients are well blended.
  • Add desired amount of sauce to pasta. Toss until pasta is coated with sauce. (Because the pasta is still hot from cooking, it will heat sauce.)

How To Roast Peppers:

Preheat oven to preheat to 450F. Arrange the peppers on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in the oven, turning every 15 minutes until done (about 30 minutes). Once they are done place in a covered bowl. As the steam from the peppers condenses, the skin becomes easier to peel off. Once the peppers have cooled, carefully peel off the blackened skin and discard. You can do this with your fingers or a sharp pairing knife. Pull or cut off the top of the pepper and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. ***Never rinse or wash the peppers as the water will diminish the smoky flavor.

Just a few ways to serve Roasted Red Peppers:

  • Roasted Red Peppers are great on baguette slices with Mozzarella or Goat cheese and capers served as an appetizer.
  • Blend and serve as a creamy soup.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Dip.
  • Red Pepper Hummus.

These are just a few great recipe ideas to use roasted red peppers. What are some of your favorite recipes? 

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Traditional Family Favorite Dishes:Gnocchi with Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

Posted on 28 December 2009 by noelskitchen

Traditional Family Favorite Dishes

Gnocchi was one of my favorite traditional family meals growing up and an amazing dish that I remember fondly as a child. It is a very simple dish to make with practice. Gnocchi are potato dumplings that are cooked like pasta.  Gnocchi should be very light and delicate. If they are heavy, you’ve used too much flour. In this recipe, you’ll want to slowly add the flour a little at a time. This recipe calls for three simple ingredients: potato, egg and flour. It’s a very budget-friendly meal to make for your family. Serve it with your favorite sauce. Today, I made a Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce. This is the first time I created this sauce and it came out rich and creamy.

gnocchi plated

Gnocchi with Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

Gnocchi Ingredients:

8 Russett potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 egg

1 cup flour


Fill a large pot with cold water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add potatoes.

Boil Potatoes

 Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, approximately 45 minutes or easily pierced with a fork. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon. Do not get rid of the water, you will use it later when cooking the Gnocchi. Let potatoes cool.

 Potato Rice

 Once cooled, spoon the potatoes into a potato press. I happen to have a great potato press kitchen tool that not only lets me press potatoes, it also is a cookie press. Very easy to use.  (You can visit my link to the Kitchen Store on my homepage for this perfect kitchen tool.)  Press potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Using a spatula or simply your fingers, press the potatoes lightly together.

Whisk the egg and add to potatoes. Add flour a little at a time. Using a spatula, incorporate the ingredients together making sure you scrap the bottom and sides of bowl have flour thouroughly incorporated and a light dough consistency. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

gnocchi roll

Taking a little at a time, roll out into a log shape. Cut with a serated knife at an angle.

gnocchi roll cut


gnocchi cut

 Place on a cookie sheet. You can shape the Gnocchi with a fork, your thumb or simply leave them as they are. Cover with plastic wrap if you are not using right away.

gnocchi cookie sheet

gnocchi cookie sheet1

Reheat the water from boiling the potatoes and bring to a boil. Drop Gnocchi in boiling water in batches.

gnocchi water boil

I usually cook 20 at a time. They are done when they float to the top.

gnocchi boil water

 I usually give them one quick light stir and remove them with a slotted spoon onto a serving dish or bowl, making sure all the water is drained off. Soggy Gnocchi doesn’t taste very good. Continue to cook the Gnocchi until all are cooked. 

gnocchi finished

Add  your favorite sauce or I chose a new creation; Roasted Pepper and Spinach sauce (see recipe below)  to individual dishes or bowls of Gnocchi. It should be a light dressing of sauce, you want to be able to taste the Gnocchi and not just the sauce. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top and serve.

Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

I found this great jar of Zergut Peppertizer, Roasted pepper appetizer sauce I really had no use for other than serving over cream cheese. It can be used as an appetizer dip or side dish. It’s made primarily with peppers, eggplant, onion, and hot peppers.


1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 cup Zercut Peppertizer sauce

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup chopped frozen spinach, drained

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 1/2 cups half n half (I improvised as I ran out of heavy cream)

1 cup milk

Pinch of parsley

Pinch of Oregano

Salt and pepper


In a large pot add butter and olive oil.

butter oil mixture

Add onion. Saute 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and Zercut Peppertizer sauce. Mix together until incorporated. Simmer on Low-Medium heat so your sauce is not popping out everywhere.

  sauce spinach

 Add spinach and garlic. Give it a quick stir and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add half n half or heavy cream and milk. Stir in spices. Taste before you add the salt and pepper and adjust measurement to your tasting.


It’s always a good idea to taste as you go. Cook for another 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Spoon over Gnocchi.

gnocchi plated 1

I’ve made gnocchi many times and I love the different variations. Some make with Ricotta cheese and Parmesan with a lighter tomato sauce or even  a pesto sauce or a brown butter sauce are fabulous. Enjoy your traditional family favorites.

Eating Out Is Expensive…Eating With Family Is Priceless…

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